Monthly Archives: October 2013

Making a Mental ‘Switch’: Cultural Sensitivity Professional Development Workshop for Staff at the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health, Kiryat Hayovel Clinic

What is the essence of cultural competency? More than the manuals, more than the training sessions – cultural sensitivity is the switch in approach to the patient-caregiver relationship, from ‘let me make you better’ (on my terms, using my rules) to ‘let’s work together to enable you to heal’ (mutual communication, bridging communication gaps of language and culture, realization that one’s background and culture dictates one’s actions and reactions).

The intention of the workshop held on October 21, 2013 for members of the Kiryat Hayovel public mental health clinic, part of the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health, was to help the 25 participants make that switch in their approach. The all-day workshop included a discussion of the present situation, and staff members raised a number of examples of social and political tensions in the clinic. As in other Cultural Competency Workshops, we also covered a theoretical section, in which we went over basic aspects of cultural competency – interpersonal communication, core issues, cultural dimensions, medical interpretation, social and political tension and more. In the afternoon the medical actress joined us and we practiced 2 real-life situations.

The director of the Kiryat Hayovel Clinic was very cooperative, both during and after the workshop. He told us that he received positive feedback from his staff, and that everyone recognizes the need for changing their approach, with an emphasis on everyday work. He noted that many of the staff were aware of the concept of cultural competency, but this all-day workshop allowed them to concentrate solely on how cultural competency / or cultural sensitivity influences their work as mental health caregivers.

The workshop also made the director as well as the staff more aware of the need for medical interpreters (translators) when working with patients whose mother tongue is not Hebrew. The workshop therefore increased his motivation for including his staff members in the upcoming medical interpreter’s course at the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health in Givat Shaul.

Creating a Cultural Competency Learning Community

We’ve talked about our growing national network of cultural competency coordinators here before . As part of this effort, we held our quarterly workshop for 25 cultural competency coordinators from around Israel at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (Ichilov) on October 7. Participants came from hospitals as far north as Tiberias and Hadera, as well as the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv area. There were also representatives of the different HMO’s as well. This workshop focused on the Connection between the Community and Health Care Organizations.

The meeting included a panel discussion of 4 different perspectives:

  • Mr. Pekadu Gadamo, director of the Tene Briut organization, which works to improve health care for the Ethiopian community in Israel.
  • Mr. Or-El Ben Ari, director of the Ministry of Health’s clinic for migrants and political asylum seekers at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.
  • Rabbi Zvi Porath, rabbinic consultant to the ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital
  • Mr. Gabriel Pransky, the Pransky Project

Each member of the panel spoke about his organization, and the connection each one has to health care organizations. Mr. Ben Ariand Mr. Paransky also distributed information sheets about their organizations. Click here to see the Refugees Clinic information sheet and here to see the information sheet on the Pransky project.

We’d like to focus on two of them, Mr. Ben Ari, from what was formerly referred to as the Refugees’ Clinic, and Rabbi Porath, from ALYN. Mr. Ben Ari first described his clinic. Located in the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, the clinic serves the tens of thousands of refugees and political asylum seekers that live in the Tel Aviv area, none of whom have health insurance. Instead, they often rely on hospital emergency rooms for care, and then only in real emergencies. And it was found that many of the emergencies could have been prevented if they had sought medical care earlier. The clinic was established in 2008 by the Israel Medical Association and other partners and staffed largely by volunteer doctors and other medical personnel. In January 2013 the clinic came under the auspices of the Israel Ministry of Health. Today it includes a staff of 20 and offers a range of medical services, from regular clinics to urgent care facilities, operated by the Terem organization. In the discussion, Mr. Ben Ari asked the cultural competency coordinators to make the clinic known to the refugees / asylum seekers they treat, since after they are released they rarely seek follow-up care that the clinic can provide.

The coordinators were fascinated by the clinic. For most this was the first time they had heard of the clinic and its activities. They were so excited about it that they asked to have a tour. This is now being organized.
Another of the speakers was Rabbi Zvi Porath, of ALYN Rehabilitative Hospital. Rabbi Porath, himself Ultra-Orthodox, has done groundbreaking work in his position as an advisor to the staff and on Jewish law. In most hospitals the Rabbi deals mainly with issues regarding Kashruth and Sabbath observance, Rabbi Porath is the first hospital Rabbi in Israel to utilize his role for cultural competency issues as well. He advises both the staff and patients, especially when there are instances in which there are questions of Jewish law as it relates to specific treatments. Rabbi Porath not only gives his own advice, but also knows whom to go to when other authorities’ opinions are needed. This is because each community within the Ultra-Orthodox world follows its own community leaders, but not necessarily leaders from other communities. In this way Rabbi Porath is not only a consultant and an advisor, he is also a mediator, helping the ALYN staff provide the best care for all its patients, sensitive to the cultural traditions of its Ultra-Orthodox patients and their families.

The participants were also very interested in Rabbi Porath’s work, since all of them deal with issues of caring for Ultra-Orthodox patients in ways that are in line with their strict reading of Jewish law. Many even scheduled private meetings with him, to see how he could help in their respective organizations.